by Daniel Yap
So there is finally a newspaper report about her scams. Wanbao followed up on a lead through STOMP and discovered that this auntie makes over a thousand dollars a night begging, lying and scamming. She has asked me for $500 before, but then I uncovered her scam over 45 minutes once I bought her tea.
I first met her in front of Red Dot Building in Tanjong Pagar on a weekday afternoon, maybe in 2012. She was sobbing and crying to a bunch of young office workers as I walked past on an errand. On the way back I saw she was still there sobbing by the pavement and stopped to try and help. She said she was hungry and I offered to take her to Maxwell Market to buy food. She declined. I offered to buy her tar pao food from Maxwell. She then claimed that her leg hurt and she wanted to rest there, and that I should just give her $5 instead so that she could go buy food later when she felt better.
She claimed to live in Ghim Moh and was only here in Chinatown (Tanjong Pagar actually, but I shan’t quibble) to meet someone who owed her money but who refused to return it. She said her children had abandoned her and that she had lived a “good life” but had been “taken advantage of”. She said that she worked at some big local company (I forget which) as a secretary but that she had been cheated of all her savings. She even invoked the name of some church she had attended and that was how she knew the person who owed her money, she said. She gave the impression that this was a temporary situation.
I was heading back to the office so just gave her the $5 and wished her well.
In 2013, I saw her again in Holland V (where I live), which didn’t raise alarm bells for me because she said she lived in Ghim Moh. She was sobbing along the pavement again and I came up to her to ask what had happened about that loan, and why was she begging still. When she realised that I had given her money before, her eyes lit up. I thought it was because of familiarity, but now I realise she saw me as easy prey.
This explained what she said next.
Her momentary flash of recognition quickly faded into sobbing again as she poured out a tale of how she had been a guarantor for a church friend’s son, but that both son and friend had defaulted and that she was left in the lurch. (In retrospect, I now realise how foolish a notion this is – that a penniless old woman could act as guarantor for a loan). The bank was after her. SHE ASKED ME FOR A $500 “LOAN”.
I don’t know why, but I still had a soft spot for her and I knew that I would never see the money again, but I wanted to do my due diligence and help her sort out a better solution to the “grave injustice” that had been done to her. I offered to buy her tea at the HV market and tried to uncover her story and talk to the players to reach a better outcome. Oh, how it unravelled from there.
She would make fake calls on her phone without actually dialling numbers, and furnished me with names and contacts that didn’t exist. She declined to say which bank the alleged loan was from. Nothing existed. I declined to give her $500.
She then proceeded to chide me for leaving her to suffer and die. I told her to go away, and she eventually did.
A friend of mine who worked at a market food stall (we were having tea at the market) then came up to me and told me about this woman. She knows about this old woman with the crocodile tears and the bag full of lies. She, and other stall operators, have seen her frequently begging and scamming in HV. She is not poor at all, my friend explained. She could be seen walking into the 7-11 or other shops nearby to change her small notes into 50s, and would change $400 or $500 at a time (the retail assistants would tell her, as they bought drinks from my friend’s stall). She made over $1,000 at each outing. Maybe more. The news reports say that she deposits the cash into a bank account, which I suspect contains more cash than some people’s CPF accounts.
The next time I saw her in HV, I asked her loudly who else she was planning to lie to today. She gave me a dirty, irritated look, seeing how I was blowing her cover and revealing the scam that she was running. If I see her doing this nonsense again, I think I will call the police and get them involved. It’s all on record now.
I’m glad the press has blown the cover on this woman’s disgusting antics. We have genuinely poor people working hard to make ends meet, and here is some greedy, rich scammer beggar sucking up money that should be going to properly-governed charities, like the now-renewed NKF, or to the folks at the rental flats nearby.
And for the rest of us – don’t be taken for a ride like I was.